Strike Up the Band: HBCUs Marching Into the Harlem Renaissance is a virtual panel discussion highlighting the influence band director James Reese Europe, drum major Noble Sissle had on the development of today’s HBCU marching bands. The precision and skill these legendary musicians honed during their military service was passed on by members of the Harlem Hell fighters who, upon returning to the United States, became band directors at these colleges and universities.
Our illustrious panel will lead the audience on a musical time travel journey of music from Africa to America, providing a real-time example of musical syncopation. They’ll also delve into the role the Puerto Rican band members played in honoring their musical style and history and their contributions to The 369th band. Lastly, our dance expert will highlight the dances made popular as a result of The 369th band’s music and how those dances influence the marching band performances and halftime shows of today. Noble Sissle, Jr. will round out the discussion with a look at how military bands influenced not only HBCU bands, but also the Broadway musical Shuffle Along, which was part of the Harlem Renaissance.
This project represents a full circle musical movement as the first Black college football game in the United States was between Biddle College and Livingstone College. Our current 369th Experience band director hails from Livingstone College.
Our project’s goal is to celebrate the Harlem Hell fighters and their contributions to music as we approach the centennial of both the Harlem Renaissance and the Broadway musical Shuffle Along.